Shift in NJ’s fiscal year could impact school district

SOUTH ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The South Orange–Maplewood Board of Education dived into the waters of virtual meetings on April 20, when it held its first meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all nonessential businesses and gatherings. After Superintendent Ronald Taylor’s update about distance learning, each BOE committee chairperson gave a report, including Finance Committee Chairman Anthony Mazzocchi.

“We were talking about a lot of the things that are still unknown at the state level, specifically the extension of the fiscal year and what that might mean to our district, our budget process and our budget as a whole,” he said at the meeting. “As I think all of you know, July 1 would be the new fiscal year under normal circumstances. Now it’s going to be Oct. 1. That has a lot of ramifications for us.”

Business Administrator Paul Roth talked about the changes and how they could affect the South Orange–Maplewood School District.

“That first important date already passed, which was April 14,” Roth said at the meeting. “That’s when the state signed into law the extension of the state’s fiscal year. This does not change the school district’s or a local municipality’s fiscal year. That gives New Jersey an additional three months to solidify the state budget.”

State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio is scheduled to give Gov. Phil Murphy a report about New Jersey’s finances on May 22, and Murphy is slated to give a state of the state address on Aug. 25. Roth expects to receive guidance from the state sometime between those two dates.

“We can forecast that there will be probably some fiscal difficulties next year, due to large layoffs,” Roth said, comparing the current economic collapse to the 2008 financial crisis. “I would expect to receive some guidance from the state or through the county office on any possible changes to state aid that’s promised to school districts. We should expect that we’re going to have some difficult news coming up, but there is no guidance received yet other than those dates.”